Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg


Title: Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret
Author: Steve Luxenberg
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Age Group: Adult, non-fiction

Steve Luxenberg always knew his mother was an only child, just as he knew her name was Beth. He and his siblings are shocked when his mother mentions, during a routine medical history, a younger sister who was sent away. After his mother's death, Luxenberg begins to investigate the story of the sister and why his mother had kept Annie a secret all that time.

Annie's Ghosts is an absolutely fantastic book! I was so drawn into the story that I finished reading it in two days, picking it up every time my daughter took a nap. The story of the secret sister is compelling and Luxenberg is a wonderful story teller. His journalistic background is evident as he documented all his research and was clearly able to put people at ease and draw out their memories while influencing them as little as possible.

Luxenberg weaves his personal search for information about his aunt in with the history of mental health care in Michigan during the time when his mother and aunt were growing up. His research connects him to relatives that he didn't realize existed and reconnects him with some of his mother's childhood friends. In attempting to gain as much information as possible about his aunt's life in a large mental institution near Detroit, he faces many roadblocks including needing to gain legal authority to access the records and then finding out that many of those records had been destroyed.

Luxenberg often ponders his mother's motives for keeping her sister a secret and wonders how containing that secret for so long affected her. With most of the principal characters in the story already dead, it is likely that he will never find definitive answers to his many questions. However while this story certainly started out as a personal family quest, Luxenberg expands his scope to revealing the lives of so many like Annie who were sent away, lost and forgotten.

Thank you so much to Julie at FSB Associates for sending me such a wonderful book.